Thursday, February 14, 2008

Working Nostalgia in PR - and Happy Valentine's Day!

I don't write about product launches much anymore - well, never anymore - but this was just too good to pass up, especially since today is Valentine's Day. M&M's had come out with Green M&M's for Valentine's Day.

I didn't see any PR on the launch, and had to search for the press release (look, they did an SMR - and it didn't seem to do anything for them!) - but I did come across a POP set-up at Walgreen's, where I clicked the photo in this piece.

Despite the seemingly lack of PR on this (and, I watch enough TV, read one print and at least 2 online papers a day, that I am sure I would have caught something), the product did bring out old memories from when I was in the 5th grade.

And, being sick this week, I dreamt of the school (being sick brings out old memories and dreams for me).

Green M&M's Mean Love

In the fifth grade, my best friend (Ezra Bookstein) and I decided to go along with the urban legend of Green M&Ms, and start a horny collection of candy. Did we believe in the aphrodisiac properties of the M&Ms? Not sure, but come on, we were stupid kids. So, we had a lucite box, and we started filling it with green M&Ms, and then expanded it to other green candy, such as gummi bears and Now & Laters.

This went on for a few months, and the girls took notice of it, so decided to start their own corollary, the hot collection. Same idea, but since they were hot, it was all in red. I am pretty sure that Selma Beitner (aka Selma Blair) came up with the idea.

So, pretty much two groups of students at a school with a lot of time on their hands, disposable income for candy, and sweet tooths. I also learned about Greek history that year (thanks Mrs. Levy!) and how to write well (thanks Mrs. Levy!) and about orchids (thanks Mrs. Levy!) and about my namesake (thanks Mrs. Berris). Yes, I went to a small school.

Seeing the green M&Ms, though, brought back these memories - and it's a smart move to tap into nostalgia for products. It's why Transformers worked well as a movie, why there's talk about other 70's and 80's properties being made as movies ... or being re-released for my generation's own children. And, yes, I bought a few packs.

The three things I wanted to say about this post: first, the SMR doesn't work, or this would have had more coverage. A better written release, smart outreach, better PR would have done more. Second, yes, I went to school with Selma Blair, but haven't spoken to her in about 20 years. Third, hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Greg Brady gets Community

I last wrote on online community, and how too often, the social media "gurus" just look to one community, and do not move beyond that community. I can name a couple examples this week alone, of product launches and video conferencing that just applies to the circle ... and barely moves beyond it.

Part of what I wrote about, though, was the communities that I was involved with. And, well, that left out a lot of communities that I have done SOME work with, but would not consider myself a hardcore member. But, that does not mean that they aren't out there, and I am trying to talk to them for my blog.

And, Jonathan Trenn touched upon this recently, as well - that the community is insular, and lacks diversity. And, just look around, and you will notice that he's not wrong.

So, in preparation for my community post, I was approached by MyLifeBrand. They ping me often on their latest communities and updates, and I usually flag them for future use, or to use in my pitch blog. So, when they reached out to me about Barry Williams taking his community to MyLifeBrand, I took the opportunity to speak to him. Come on, it's Greg Brady!

No, I didn't ask him about the sexual escapades on The Brady Bunch (although we did talk about the passing of the Al the Butcher). But, here's an actor (not what we expect to be on the cutting edge of social media) that is older (and, for some people, older than 25 is old in social media) but who probably gets it more than a lot of the companies and social media gurus out there. Or, he's been trained really, really, really well.

I think he gets it, IMHO.

So, below are the notes from the conversation:
The whole point of the community is that is the anchor for The Greg Brady Project (hence forth GPB) - and we went with MyLifeBrand because they seemed to have the kind of social networking technology that we were looking for. At GPB, you can go into the community, and aggregate all your social network sites that you are involved (MySpace, LinkedIn) and pull them into the community. It lets you import your friends, message friends, all within the community we are creating at the GPB.

One central point, though, is making the site a way to be a centralized social network. We brought in other tools that we like, such as MyBlogLog and Flickr, and put them into the community to help assemble the Greg Brady Project as a fan community portal with a blog, a blog that's written by me [Barry Williams] and co-authors and guest authors.

The co-authors are a big part of the fan base, and by sharing the platform of the GBP, we are giving the fans a voice within their own community. It's an actual conversation with my fans, and an authenticate conversation. We also have guest authors, who are usually other celebrities that come to share and give their perspectives on celebrity, working with me (or being my friend) through the years, and other fun anecdotes.

The whole idea of the GPB was that I was looking for a place to meet the fans. I had a Web site for 8 years, but it was a one-way street and I was looking to create and maintain and foster relationships, so I transitioned the site into a blog and a community. Now, it's more real-time than a static Web site.

And, now all kinds of interesting things have happened by creating the community to speak with fans, and also business partners and communities. It's a big world to explore with community, and it's a way for me to have a current voice that allows me to be real with the fans, share what I am doing and grow the community. And, I wanted to make sure that it was no another Brady Bunch fan site (but still Brady friendly). It's not for the minutiae of Brady fans, but a personal and current journey. This is an active site, where I am part of the community and active in the upkeep.

In the 42 years I have been in the business, I have met interesting and great people, I have great memories. And, people have asked me about those over the years.

I did not design GPB to be self-serving, but to give back and be part of the community. We did research, and we discussed how we were going to create the community. It took some time (about 9 months) to think through the layers, visit other sites, and found that the celebrity blogosphere ... well, there were a lot of elements lacking.

For example with a lot of other celebrity / Hollywood blogs, you don't typically have regular contributors. It's not usually interactive. We came to the idea of co-authors through an essay contest to the community. We were looking for enthusiastic people, and we found some great ones for the community.

The one thing that I have run into is that this is a time demand, and I knew that it would require a partnership with my fans. That's how I look at GPB - it's a powerful tool for social networking, and it's about caring about the relationships, and keeping and growing those relationships. Social media helps that, and it is always evolving.

The generation that really is on top of this is the younger crowd, the late teens and 20-somethings. And that fan-base is pretty large for Greg Brady, and I would not have had a way to reach them without these tools. This is about conversations with me and the fans. I bring in other celebrities for first-person experiences. And, with the MyLifeBrand partnership, the unique platform has allowed me to do more with the community, and gave me channels of interactivity with the fans.
This is what I loved about the interview: The one thing that I have run into is that this is a time demand, and I knew that it would require a partnership with my fans. That's how I look at The Greg Brady Project - it's a powerful tool for social networking, and it's about caring about the relationships, and keeping and growing those relationships.

Think about that - so many social media gurus and experts don't even get that it's about the community and the conversation, and yet here we have a 70's child star that gets it. He understands that it's about conversations, that it's about the community, he understands that it's about engagement and keeping them interested enough to coming back.

Why can't more corporations get that?